Active shooter evoke images of horror – fear

DC shooting scene taken off news channel

Right now in Washington DC, Metropolitan police officers are searching for the motive to today’s shooting onslaught that took place at a heavily guarded Naval facility in the southeast section of the nation’s capitol.  Arguably, Washington DC has the highest per capita number of law enforcement officers in the country.  Between federal law enforcement agencies like ATF, FBI, National Park police, Capitol police, and the full complement of highly trained Metropolitan officers, the city is well guarded.  Or so we thought.

The active shooter call is one that no officer ever wants to get.  It requires fast action, teamwork, and herculean bravery like no other call.   The “active shooter” refers to just that – ongoing, systematic slaughter of innocent civilians with the specific purpose of violence and murder.  These events start and end quickly averaging only 7-10 minutes before the shooter is dead.  Usually killed by his own hand but not before the execution or injury to scores of men, women and children.   Most police officers have taken the active shooter training programs that evolved after the Columbine HS shooting.  Since then, officers are trained to “move to contact” – go find the bad guy – do not to wait for special weapons teams as the former response zeitgeist once required.  Many behavioral scientists believe shooters give off clues before they act on their violent plans.

The active shooter has become an all too frequent happenstance that we cannot ignore.  In a blog published in April, 2013 information became apparent about Jared Loughner’s change in mental status and growing detachment from others (Sefton, 4-24-13).  People suspected that Loughner was becoming a danger to himself and others.  Unfortunately, there was no in-depth assessment of his mental status before he went on the bloody rampage.  Loughner plead guilty to the Tuscon shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords and killing or wounding 18 others.  He is serving 111 years in prison.


The repeated exposure to horrific events  such as the DC Navy base shooting and too many others raise the risk of making toxic our collective conscience toward the images and horror and loss of life.  People feel denuded and afraid when they hear about shooting events such as these but something more needs to be done.  What drives these individuals?  In the coming weeks or months more information about the apparent shooter will become known.  Behavioral experts will make assumptions about his motive and the underpinnings of the violent onslaught.  “The psychological autopsy is a detailed analysis of the pre-incident emotional comportment and behavior of the violent decedent although this is rarely done” according to Michael Sefton.   More of these studies should be undertaken to establish high risk conditions that may create stopping and containment points for derailment of action and greater understanding of those with a proclivity toward terminal violence – such as what happened today.

What is certain is the need for each of us to be more aware of our surroundings and to those who might do us harm.  When confronted with evil it is incumbant upon each of us to think and take aggressive action that may save your own life and the lives of others.

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